Thursday, October 10, 2013

Road Trip To Rotorua - Part 2 Museum

Rotorua Museum 
As we arrived in Rotorua (unofficially called Rotovegas by Kiwis) and made our way to the hotel, we could see the tudor architecture of the above building and wondered what it was and what it was hiding.   It was close to our hotel so a quick unpack and a short drive (in theory we should have walked it was that close!) and we found ourselves parked outside.  Thats when we discovered it was the museum.   Initially I was disappointed it was a museum but a little excited that it was a public building I would be able to go inside and explore (the architecture is really that appealing).

Now, I am not a fan of 'small town' museums (in that I will choose another activity over an expensive museum trip usually) and I confess I thought this one was going to be a big fizzer and disappoint.  I am pleased to announce that I was wrong - wrong on every level.

Inside, it is stunning.
One of the

It is worth a visit just to explore its architecture.  You can climb to the top and view the city, you can explore the stunning internal staircase and, you can explore its basement (warning - if you are taller than me then you will need to watch you don't knock your head).

The sign warning about the height of the ceilings - I just
make it under - a source of great disappointment as I
swear I have shrunk from 5'7 (well thats my story
and I am sticking to it!!)

It has an interesting history.  Currently it is the museum, and it has undergone (and I understand this is an ongoing process) restoration.

Its original use was as a world famous bathhouse that used to offer therapeutic treatments and it opened in 1908.  It was the NZ Governments first real attempt at tourism and there are still original items that reflect this.  There is a dedicated area that tells its story, including a space where the layers of paint have been stripped back to show the different paint colours over time.  Aspects of its history are emphasised as your traverse the inner workings of this beautiful building.  Down in the basement you can see where the pipes come in, and see aspects of the original bathhouse.   The loft space is fascinating.

One of the displays down in the basement

The cafe - whist we did not indulge, looked inviting and the smell of freshly roasted coffee was quite tantalising - so based on smell I would say pop in.

View from Upstairs overlooking the Government Gardens
They have a number of displays that are permanent, and they have a number of displays that change regularly.  While we were there the Christchurch Earthquake and Civil Defence display was outstanding - in particular the footage of the gentleman that survived by the scruff of his neck.  As ex Cantabs, it  really struck an emotional chord.

In the loft, heading to the Towers Lookout
My favourite display was the Maori section - the waka is nothing short of stunning - a veritable visual symphony, and the story of the traditional food house (complete with the food house) is one not to be missed - NO spoilers from me.  Suffice to say it was a great story.  Full of drama, murder and intrigue.

On the roof lookout - overlooking the lake

The Taongas (treasures) were wonderful and I especially loved the stories and artefacts that highlighted the eruption of Tarawera.   The mummified cat had Squirt fascinated (and me a little grossed out).   No photos allowed in this section - shame - as behind the doors is just a treasure trove of visual delights.  You will just have to believe me.

So, overall rating - 4 stars out of 5.  I initially thought it was a bit pricey but actually, it was good value and I really enjoyed all the displays, movies and interactive items.  I promise you wont be disappointed - even it if is only to explore the Museum building.


The Surrounds - Government Gardens

Now, a quick disclaimer - we did not have time to really explore all of this and we will go back next time to explore the foot baths (free) and let Squirt play on the fabulous playground.  We have heard they are fabulous and we saw for ourselves how great the playground is - so Rotorua - we will be back!

One of the stunning pools
Government Gardens
What is a real treasure about this area is that it is free and it has plenty to see and experience - including mud pools (small ones), and steaming pools.  Lots of geothermal things to experience.  The gardens are lovely and well groomed.  A nice place to go for a stroll - Squirt took her scooter and the paths were ideal for her to have a play.  For families - it is a must.

Safe but still all very accessible 
Up close and personal

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